Will the Nintendo Switch Succeed? Google Trends say "Yes"

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Predicting the success of video games consoles has never been an easy task. In the mid-90s, few would have counted on Sony entering the games arena and outselling not only Sega but Nintendo as well.

Equally, many analysts gave little chance to Nintendo’s own Wii console when it was pitted against the more powerful and technically impressive Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. However, history will remember the Wii as one of the most successful consoles ever and, in light of the rise of numerous trends in gaming since, a truly trailblazing piece of technology.

With the disappointing sales performance of the Wii U, Nintendo are looking to bounce back with the Switch, their unique console/handheld hybrid which takes some of the core ideas of the Wii U and expands upon them, allowing the user to literally take the console with them as a handheld device.

At this point, nobody can say for sure just how the Switch will sell. On the one hand, the console’s technology and local multiplayer offering sets it apart from its competitors. On the other, the relatively high price and question marks over the game’s launch titles may harm its chances, at least in the short term. That said, using Google’s Trends data, we can make an educated guess using search data to track the progress of the Switch against previous consoles.

“Pre order Switch” vs “Pre order Wii U”

One of the big criticisms of the Wii U was the lack of fanfare and marketing to coincide with its launch. Nintendo seem to have learned their lesson, with a much more concerted pre-launch campaign accompanying the Switch, including a potentially lucrative (and expensive) Superbowl spot (see below). Their efforts appear to be have been entirely justified based on the number of people searching for pre orders of the two consoles.

“Pre order Switch” vs “Pre order Wii”

Even more impressive is interest in pre ordering the Switch compared to pre ordering Nintendo’s big console success story of the past two decades, the Wii. The Wii undoubtedly picked up much of its momentum post-launch, but the fact that the Switch has such a jump on it is still extremely promising.

“Nintendo Switch” vs “Wii U”

It’ll come as no surprise that the Wii U enjoyed the peak of its interest within the immediate weeks after its launch, which also coincided with Black Friday and the run up to Christmas 2012. However, the Switch enjoyed more than 80% of the number of searches the Wii U got at its peak in the week of its launch event in January, suggesting the new console will smash the number of searches the Wii U got post-launch.

“Nintendo Switch” vs “Wii”

Painting a much less rosy picture is the comparison between the Switch to the Wii. While this graph does underline just what a colossal success to Wii was, the Switch is at least roughly keeping up the levels of pre-launch interest the Wii had, which is more than the Wii U was able to do.

“Nintendo Switch” vs “3DS”

In lieu of the Wii U achieving the same levels of sales as its predecessor, the 3DS did much to pick up the slack, shifting over 65 million units. Although the comparison isn’t completely fair as the Switch will be predominantly a console rather than a handheld, the fact it has overtaken the number of current searches of a still-popular and well-supported system is encouraging to say the least.

Did the Switch’s Super Bowl advert work?

For the first time in their history, Nintendo dipped into their pockets to shell out an estimated $5 million for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl.

This was the biggest sign that the Japanese gaming giant had learned from the mistakes they made in their promotion (or lack of) of the Wii U. But what impact did the ad have on search interest in the Switch?

In short, not much. The graph above is limited to just the United States, but even then the Super Bowl slot did little to spike searches for the Switch, particularly when compared to the amount of interest immediately following the press event in Tokyo on January 13th. Admittedly, search traffic isn’t the fairest way to gauge the success of an advert, particularly one running in the middle of a major sporting event, as even those that want to learn more about the console will have been reluctant to stop watching the game.

However, when compared to a selection of other brands that promoted themselves during the Super Bowl, the Switch’s ad looks a little disappointing:

That said, Nintendo probably approached the exercise as an awareness raiser for the console rather than a direct attempt to secure more pre-orders or sales. One of the Wii U’s big failings was that many people simply didn’t know it existed. Whether they searched for it or not, over 100 million people are now aware that Nintendo is bringing out a new console, and there’s no way that can be a bad thing for the Switch’s prospects.

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